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What is Fibonacci Retracement? Definition & How to Use It

How to use Fibonacci Retracement? | Definition & Examples | Beginner’s Guide

The following guide will examine Fibonacci retracement, how it’s derived from the Fibonacci sequence, how to understand it on charts and interpret those findings, as well as the pros and cons of using this technical analysis tool. 


What is the Fibonacci sequence?

The Fibonacci numbers were first described as early as 200 B.C. in Indian mathematics in connection with Sanskrit prosody (the study of poetic meters and verse), particularly in works by Pingala. However, the most explicit description of the sequence emerges in the work of Acarya Virahanka, who is credited as having developed Fibonacci numbers and their sequencing method around 600 A.D.

The Fibonacci sequence was introduced to the west by Italian mathematician Leonardo of Pisa, commonly known as Fibonacci, in his 1202 book Liber Abaci, in which he uses it to calculate the growth of idealized (biologically unrealistic) rabbit populations. The sequence is also named after him. 

Recommended video: The Fibonacci Sequence – Nature’s Code

Source: YouTube SciShow

Keep reading to find out how to apply the Fibonacci retracement to your trading strategy. 


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Fibonacci sequence and the golden ratio 

The golden ratio (often denoted by the Greek letter φ), also known as the golden section, golden mean, or divine proportion, is a mathematical ratio equal to (1+√5)/2, or approximately 1.618. A golden ratio is an irrational number, meaning a fraction of integers or whole numbers cannot express it.

The golden ratio and the Fibonacci sequence give birth to the golden spiral– a logarithmic spiral that grows outward by a factor equivalent to the golden ratio. Essentially, the golden spiral gets wider (or further from its center point) by a factor of φ for every quarter turn it makes.

The golden spiral/Fibonacci spiral. Source: Researchgate.net

It is found in some patterns in nature, including the pentagonal nature of some flowers, the spiral of a nautilus shell, as well as the shape of hurricanes or galaxies. Moreover, its elegant aesthetic disposition has cemented it as a fundamental element in art, architecture, and design. For example, the Parthenon in Athens, the Great Pyramid in Giza, and Da Vinci’s “The Last Supper” all incorporate rectangles whose dimensions are based on the golden ratio.

Fascinatingly, the frequent application of the golden ratio in trading analysis creates something akin to a self-fulfilling prophecy, i.e., the more people utilize Fibonacci-based trading methods, the more effective they become.

Fibonacci ratios

Importantly, when we take any two successive Fibonacci numbers, as the numbers get larger, the quotient between each consecutive pair yields the golden ratio– approximately 1.618, or its inverse 0.618 (61.8%). 

By dividing any number with the second one to its right, you’ll get a result of 0.382 or 38.2%; by dividing one with the third to its right, you’ll get a 0.2360 or 23.6%, and so on. 

Fibonacci retracement levels

Technical traders use Fibonacci ratios to determine retracement levels. The Fibonacci retracement levels are: 

  • 23.6%;
  • 38.2%;
  • 61.8%;
  • 78.6%.

Although not officially a Fibonacci ratio, 50% is also used

All the percentages (except for 50%) are based on some mathematical calculation involving the Fibonacci sequence.

Fibonacci retracement formula

Fibonacci retracement levels do not have formulas. Instead, a Fibonacci retracement is created by taking two extreme points (e.g., a peak and a trough) on a chart and dividing the vertical distance by the key Fibonacci ratios. 

Recommended video: How to trade Fibonacci retracements

Source: YouTube Trading 212

How to use Fibonacci retracement?

Fibonacci retracement levels are created by dividing the vertical distance between the high and low points by the key Fibonacci ratios. This is done by drawing horizontal lines on the trading chart​​ at 0.0%, 23.6%, 38.2%, 50%, 61.8%, and 100%. Though not an official Fibonacci ratio, traders also like to use the 50.0% ratio because often, the price will retrace by around 50% before continuing its original trend.

Fibonacci retracement levels are plotted on a chart. Source: Cmcmarkets.com

Fibonacci retracement levels can be used to:

  • Identify support and resistance levels; 
  • Place stop-loss orders; 
  • Set target prices; 
  • Act as a primary mechanism in countertrend trading (a swing trading strategy that attempts to make small gains by trading against the prevailing trend). 

The tool can also be used across various asset classes, including foreign exchange, stocks, commodities, cryptocurrencies, futures, options, and index funds

Moreover, it is suitable for all timeframes, including day trading​ and long-term investing. However, as with most technical indicators, the predictive value is proportional to the time frame, with greater weight given to longer timeframes. For example, a 61.8% retracement on a weekly chart will provide a far more potent signal than a 61.8% retracement on a five-minute chart.

Additionally, Fibonacci levels play a role in other areas of technical analysis. For example, they are prevalent in Gartley patterns (chart patterns based on Fibonacci ratios) and Elliott Wave theory (examining long-term trends in price patterns and how they correspond with investor sentiment). 

Fibonacci retracement example

When a stock is trending up or down, it usually pulls back slightly before continuing the trend. Often, it will retrace to a key Fibonacci retracement level, such as 38.2% or 61.8%. These levels offer new entry or exit positions in the direction of the original trend. Remember, the strategy works best in strongly trending markets.


In short, traders will look at Fibonacci ratios to determine where the market will resume its previous rise or fall. So, for example, during an uptrend, you might go long (buy) on a retracement down to a key support level (61.8% in the example below).

Example of using Fibonacci retracement in an uptrend. Source: Scanz.com

Conversely, in a downtrend, you could go short (sell) once the stock returns to its key resistance level (61.8% in the example below). 

Example of using Fibonacci retracement in a downtrend. Source: Scanz.com

Fibonacci retracement vs extension

While Fibonacci retracement levels can help traders find entry (or exit) points in hopes of catching the resumption of an initial trend, Fibonacci extensions can complement this strategy by giving traders Fibonacci-based profit targets or estimate how far a price may travel after a pullback is finished. 

As an illustration, a stock begins at $10 and soars to $15 before slipping back to $12.5. The move from $15 to $12.5 is a retracement. If the price starts rallying and goes to $20, that is an extension.

Fibonacci trading strategies

Fibonacci retracement lines are typically employed as part of trend-trading strategies. For example, suppose the market is experiencing a pullback within a prevailing trend. In that case, you can take advantage of the levels set by Fibonacci and place your trade in the direction of the underlying trend. 

Fibonacci levels can be a lifesaver for traders who have missed the boat on an upswing, allowing them to bide their time and wait for a market correction. By plotting Fibonacci ratios like 61.8%, 38.2%, and 23.6% on a chart, traders can discover potential retracement levels to enter profitable trades.

Additionally, Fibonacci levels can be used in combination with various technical indicators, including:

  • MACD indicator​: This method seeks to identify a cross-over of the MACD indicator (signal line crossing over/under the MACD line) when an asset’s market price reaches a key Fibonacci level. When this happens, a trade can be entered in the direction of the trend.
A buy signal is given as the MACD line crosses above the signal line, and the price reaches a key Fibonacci level. Source: Bullsarenatrading.com
  • Stochastic oscillator​: This two-line indicator is an invaluable tool that can assist in identifying both overbought and oversold levels, which can be used to forecast trend reversals. The strategy looks to match bounces off the price with overbought/oversold signals of the stochastic. The two signals together indicate an opportunity to open a position.
A buy trade is indicated as the Fibonacci level corresponds to oversold (a reading under 20) conditions within the stochastic indicator. Source: Fxtsp.com

To maximize the profitability of Fibonacci retracement levels, they must be incorporated into a larger technical analysis strategy. By leveraging a diverse array of indicators, you can identify market trends with improved accuracy, increasing the profit potential. As a rule, the more indicators to support a trade signal, the stronger it is.

Pros and cons of Fibonacci retracements 

Like most other technical analysis tools, the Fibonacci retracement also comes with its own distinct advantages and disadvantages. To fully harness this technical indicator in your trend-trading strategy, it’s essential to understand where it triumphs and where it can fall short. 

Pros

Pros

  • A means of identifying support and resistance levels: Fibonacci retracements can be employed to corroborate suspicions about market trends;
  • A way to detect entry and exit points: Support and resistance levels can indicate potential bullish or bearish market trends and suggest good times to open or close a position;
  • Straightforward: Fibonacci retracement levels are fixed and easily recognizable. Moreover, they don’t require any calculations;
  • Versatile: Fibonacci retracement works with various technical indicators. 
Cons

Cons

  • Subjective nature: Some traders feel that Fibonacci retracements are a self-fulfilling prophecy. If traders observe and act on the same Fibonacci ratios (or other technical indicators), orders will congregate around the same price levels, pushing the price in the desired direction;
  • No guarantees: While the retracement levels can provide insight into where the price might find support or resistance, they do not guarantee that the price will stop there. It’s for this reason that other indicators should be used for confirmation;
  • Difficult to identify the correct level: Because there are so many different Fibonacci levels, the price will likely reverse near one of them quite often. Unfortunately, traders often find it challenging to determine which level is the most useful at any given time;
  • Obscure: The basis for any Fibonacci tool is an uncanny numerical pattern. For example, the ratios that are the basis of the Fibonacci retracement are derived from the Fibonacci sequence and are only the creation of a mathematical process. And while that does not make Fibonacci trading inherently unreliable, it can be uncomfortable for traders who want to understand the rationale behind the method.

In conclusion 

Fibonacci retracements are a widespread technical analysis tool used to predict future turning points in the financial markets. Based on previous market behavior, skilled traders can plot Fibonacci retracements and ratios to uncover potential support and resistance levels. By leveraging this instrument, they can anticipate where prices may go next with greater accuracy.

Nevertheless, it is crucial to recognize that Fibonacci lines are merely a confirmation tool. As a result, employing this indicator alongside other technical analysis devices is highly recommended. Generally, the more confirming factors are present, the more robust and reliable a trade signal is likely to be.

Disclaimer: The content on this site should not be considered investment advice. Investing is speculative. When investing, your capital is at risk. 

FAQs about Fibonacci retracements

What is the Fibonacci sequence?

The Fibonacci sequence is a series of numbers in which each number is the sum of the two preceding numbers, starting with 0 and 1. The sequence typically goes 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144, and so on.

The Fibonacci sequence can be used to approximate the golden ratio, as the ratio of any two consecutive Fibonacci numbers is very close to the golden ratio of 1.618.

What are the Fibonacci ratios?

The Fibonacci ratios are derived from the mathematical relationships in the Fibonacci sequence. They produce the following ratios: 23.6%, 38.2%, 61.8%, 78.6%, 100%, 161.8%, 261.8%, and 423.6%. Although 50% is not a pure Fibonacci ratio, it is still used.

How to plot the Fibonacci retracement on a chart?

The Fibonacci retracement is formed by connecting the peak and a trough point of a security on a chart and splitting the vertical distance by the Fibonacci ratios. 

How to use Fibonacci retracement?

When a stock is trending up or down, it usually pulls back slightly before continuing the trend. In fact, it will often retrace to a Fibonacci retracement level, which can indicate an entry or exit point in the direction of the original trend. 

What timeframes can be used for Fibonacci retracements?

Traders can use Fibonacci retracement patterns on any timeframe. However, they are more effective when viewed on longer timeframes, such as weekly or monthly charts. 

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